After Lillian Hoodes finished a summer full of backpacking trips in 2013, she was fed up. There were no commercially packaged, freeze-dried, or dehydrated food options on the market that met the needs of her Paleo diet or fulfilled her appetite. So she created TrailFork, a Boulder-based company that makes customized, healthy, eco-packaged meals for outdoor adventurers.
Here’s how it works: Users fill out a survey on the TrailFork website about themselves, their dietary needs, the adventure they’re embarking on, etc. TrailFork will use that information to plan out (and prep!) every meal for the journey. Each meal packs about 800 to 1,000 calories and can be catered to any type of eater—vegan, vegetarian, paleo, lactose-intolerant, gluten-free, or those with omni diets. The bonus for the latter is a carefully designed menu that’s full of nutrition and variety, without “the headache of planning it out,” says Hoodes.
“What sets our meals apart is the standard: ‘Could I eat it while I sit on my couch and watch, Stranger Things?’ We want to offer food that’s simple, nutritious, and that I would want to eat on any weekday—not just after I’ve exercised,” she says.
The “Paleoats” oatmeal, for instance, is chock-full of chia seeds, coconut milk, hemp hearts, cashews, walnuts, coconut sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Atop a unique flavor, it’s satiating and delicious. Hoodes invented the recipe prior to her 2013 backpacking trip through Wyoming’s Wind River Mountain Range. She picked up dehydrated ingredients from the NOLS outdoor school in Lander, Wyoming, and experimented in her kitchen until she perfected the mix. To date, the other unique recipes she’s invented include Coconut Chana Masala, Loaded Veggie Hummus, and Apricot Almond Couscous.
“Meal planning is hard for backpackers. They need lots of calories but need to carry little weight,” says Hoodes. “We want to take that entire task off their hands.” TrailFork does everything—right down to the delivery. They ship to doorsteps across the U.S., three-day orders are free of charge, and each meal is at a moderate price of $10. The company also offers add-ons, such as snack bars ($1–$3 per day) of the Copper Cow Coffee, a Vietnamese portable pour over with sweetened, condensed milk ($3 per day).
In keeping with Hoodes’ love of the Great Outdoors, it was important to her that TrailFork obtain B Corporation status—a classification for for-profit companies who meet “rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.”
“The growth in the West is inevitable. I’ve seen the trails become more crowed and permits are snatched up faster,” says Hoodes. “If we can use our products as a way to teach people about being more ethical in the outdoors, then we feel we’re having a positive impact and doing intrinsic good.”
TrailFork up-cycles all of their ingredients to ensure that no food is wasted, and uses compostable packaging instead of plastic. According to Hoodes, no other backpacking food company has invested in compostable packaging, which is expensive. But to her, success is holistic: “We believe if we’re outside using the trails that our practices should all align. We should be acting as stewards for the places where we play.”
Try it: This spring, you’ll be able to find TrailFork’s retail line of packaged food at Neptune Mountaineering, 633 S. Broadway St., Boulder, and at mytrailfork.com.